Iran enjoys specific geographic conditions such as benefiting from approximately 250 sunny days per year, the capacity for cultivation of numerous horticultural crops throughout the country. These features make it possible to produce high quality of various horticultural crops, e.g. Iran’s horticulture sector consists of 2.5 million ha orchards with annual production of more than 15 million tons of fruit. In addition of 800,000 ha of vegetable crops, floriculture industry as well as medicinal plants. Also, Iran is center of origin for various horticultural crops and is a rich country in specific native germplasms such as Persian walnut. The quality of some Iranian products, especially dates, pistachios, figs and pomegranates, for which the country holds first position in the world. Therefore, Iran has a good potential for increasing both the quality and quantity of horticultural crops to provide the world’s horticultural markets with a wide diversity of horticultural products.
Due to its vast land area and variation in rainfall, Iran’s climate ranges from arid in the south to humid with more rain in the north. Variations in the climate and presence of numerous mountains, rivers, and natural springs have created a unique country capable of producing all types of fruits, vegetables, flowers and medicinal plants. The Caspian sea area in the north of Iran is one of the most unique regions in the world, where a mild Mediterranean climate meshes with the adjacent Alborz mountain ranges, creating a home of numerous species of edible plants, including wild and domestic apples, medlars, cherries, pomegranates, citrus, quince, olives, tea, rice, and melons.
In addition to apples and grapes, quinces and pomegranates are produced in Isfahan and other central provinces. Pistachio, olive, citrus, banana, and dates are produced in many of the southern provinces such as Kerman, Fars, and Khuzestan. Pistachio and many of the deciduous fruits species are native to Iran, and are believed to have been distributed to China and Europe, and from there to the rest of the world through the Silk Road established by Darius the Great of the Achemenian Dynasty. Apples and other deciduous fruits are commercially produced in mountain ranges of Alborz and Zagrous and in many area of Iran, including regions near Tehran, Azerbaijan, Khorasan, Kordestan, and Isfahan. Horticulture and horticultural crops are an integral part of Iranian’s rich and ancient culture. The long history of horticulture in Iran has made Iranian growers creative in the efficient use of limited resources and in controlling pest and diseases under adverse conditions. For example, there is evidence that drip irrigation was used in the desert region of Yazd in central Iran, to save precious water. Organic production of horticultural crops has been the traditional method of production, and this method is still practiced in spite of the wide use of modern cultural practices.
Known as Persia, Iran is famous in terms of fruit tree species origination and diversity. A diverse variety of various temperate fruits are grown in the northwest and northeast to the some kind of subtropical ones (such as citrus and kiwifruit) in the vicinity of Caspian sea in the north and the tropical and other subtropical fruits in the central and southern part of Iran. Present area under fruit crops is about 2,700,000 ha. Annual total fruit production is about 19 million tons. Apple, pistachio, date, citrus, grapevine, fig, pomegranate, cherry, almond, apricot and Persian walnut are major commercial fruit crops grown in Iran. Among the nut crops, pistachio has the highest area with 50% of total orchards and walnut is in the second place with 25% of total area under nut crops. Iran ranked between 8th and 10th in global fruit production.
In 2014, Iran was the world’s largest dried fruit producer country, with 1.26 million metric tons. Iran ranks first in the production of pistachios (53% of the world pistachio with 249,000 t), pomegranates, saffron and barberry, apricots, second in dates (879,000 t), apricot and cherries, third in walnuts, apples (2.3 million t), watermelon, cucumber, Cantaloupe, fourth in quince, fifth in vegetables, fennel, pea, sixth in tomatoes, seventh in citrus, grapes, onion, sure cherry, eighth in spices, peach, squash, ninth in lentil and tenth in persimmon and tea in the world (based on FAO and Iranian Ministry of Agriculture statistics).
Iran also ranks high in export of these fruits. Many of the traditional methods of production are still practiced in pistachio culture. Regions of Kerman, Mahan, Rafsanjan, and Damghan are major areas for pistachio production. Warm summer days and cool nights in these desert areas induce excellent conditions for high quality pistachio production. The famous cultivar Kerman in California was originally brought to the USA from the Kerman region of Iran. According to dates, famous cultivars like Sayer, Barhee, Piaroum, Rabi, Mazafati and Kabkab are produced in different regions and are exported to many different countries in the world.
Of the total vegetable crops produced, 31.1% were fruit bearing such as tomato, melon, watermelon, and cucumber. Leafy or stem vegetables plus root, bulb and tuberous vegetables accounted for 69% of total production. The leading crop in vegetables was tomato with 4.1 million t followed by potato (3.7 million t), watermelon (2.1 million t), and onion (1.5 million t). Due to the wide range of climatic conditions in Iran, vegetables are produced in one or more regions throughout the year.